Anderson: It's time to start paying attention to what Bruins are doing

Ty Anderson
December 20, 2017 - 2:49 am

Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

Although you’re probably unable to explain what is and is not a catch in today’s NFL, and you’re definitely not sure what ‘surviving the ground’ means, you are able to give everyone the latest update on the love/hate triangle between Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and Alex Guerrero. You’re not quite sure when Gordon Hayward is going to return to the TD Garden parquet, but you know that Terry Rozier is emerging as the first-round steal of the 2015 NBA Draft. You already have your 2018 Red Sox batting order set, with or without J.D. Martinez, and you’ve already taken the hypothetical steps necessary to make sure Hanley Ramirez doesn’t hit that 2019 vesting option by way of plate appearances.

Your fervent desire to consume any and all Celtics, Patriots, and Sox news is not new.

But you probably do not feel the same way about the Bruins. (Believe me, as somebody eagerly awaiting the days where a Bruins story isn’t buried to the bottom of, right behind our Revs and college volleyball coverage, I know.) You likely do not know Danton Heinen’s best fit on a healthy B’s roster, and you still might not even know who Danton Heinen is, even with the rookie’s impressive 22 points in 28 games.

It’s time to start caring about such seemingly minor details about the local hockey team, though, ‘cause these Bruins are undoubtedly developing something special.

Lost in the Boston sports scene’s title-or-bust shuffle from Day 1 this year (their opening night extravaganza was sandwiched between a Sox playoff game and primetime Pats game), the Bruins have quietly found a way to thrive under the radar this season.

Despite the fact that they’ve yet to have a fully healthy lineup on the ice once -- not even once! -- this year, their 39 points are the third-most in the Atlantic, just four points behind the second-place Maple Leafs despite playing three fewer games. Their plus-9 goal differential is the fifth best in the Eastern Conference, and after their 3-0 victory over the Sabres on Tuesday, they’ve now posted an 11-3-1 record in their last 15 games.

The Bruins are not just doing this on the back of their normal suspects -- Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara, and Tuukka Rask -- either. You’re seeing the young guns -- be it a Heinen, Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork, Charlie McAvoy, and even ‘lower-level’ prospects like Matt Grzelcyk -- grow into their NHL skates before your very eyes, and with results to make ‘em stick.

These are not simply ‘flash in the pan’ performances from prospects of yesteryear, either. McAvoy is a top-pairing defenseman at 19 years old and should be considered a Calder Trophy favorite now and Norris contender in two years, DeBrusk is a coach’s dream given his response to tough love benchings, the industrial Heinen has the smarts of a five-year pro, and Bjork is an ice-burner surely built for today’s rapidfire NHL. Their progressions have been enough for the Bruins to waive Matt Beleskey, and give legitimate pause as to where Adam McQuaid fits into the lineup upon his return.

But beyond the numbers and names confirming your suspicion that this team is worth watching, this is also probably the most fun anybody watching the B’s has had since 2014, when they won the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s best regular-season team.

And now that it’s over, we can be honest: There was a two, almost three-year stretch where watching Bruins Hockey became a chore. It was Groundhog Day. It was nearly back-to-back-back Sonny & Cher “I Got You Babe” performances, paused only for mid-season trades for veterans three years past their expiration date to spark pointless and unrewarded hope, until it met a fiery end on Game 82. And even if they did make it beyond Game 82, you knew it was going to be a five-game ass-whooping in round one, which is the saddest thing to possibly root for. (That was until you saw people anxiously hoping for the best-worst-team B’s to luck into the No. 1 overall pick at a draft lottery.)

Speaking to the greater malaise of those teams and franchise’s state back then, it just seemed that the club seemed without direction, and that we were going to watch this front office -- with a leadership change during their drought -- waste the prime and/or final years of the core that once took them to two Finals in three years.

Your first viewing of The Room contained more answers than the B's once painfully stuck present-day plans.

But the Bruins have since successfully fought (read as: won and developed) their way out of that, and have undoubtedly found the bridge between now and the future.

That's given you reason to watch, and hope -- no matter the opponent -- on a nightly basis.  

You can count this team’s duds and no-shows on one hand, and it’s rare that they last for more than the initial 60 minutes. That’s kept their year-end destiny full well within their control. And with their offensive creativity and poise, it never feels that these Bruins are quite out of a game. That’s given the B’s an offensive attack with at least three lines capable of carrying the load any night, and with a current pace that would give the club two 40-goal scorers in the same season for just the third time in the last 36 years. They’ve beaten some of the league’s best teams -- they’ve collected big time wins over the Predators, Penguins, Lightning, and Blue Jackets, just to name a few -- and simultaneously taken care of business against the NHL’s bottom-feeders.

Most importantly, it’s a game that continues to evolve and improve, as shown by the potential of the ‘kids’ they’ve heavily leaned on and veterans meshing into one still unfinished product that’s been a formidable foe for anybody in a wide-open NHL.

And led by the direct approach of Bruce Cassidy, and with more than a few team-friendly contracts when weighed versus production, it’s as consistent and joyful an on-ice product you’ve seen since since their Stanley Cup window closed four years ago.

Enough to re-open that window -- even if just slightly -- and your eyes with it.

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